8 Ways to Communicate With Your Child Without Yelling
Lexi Walters Wright
At a Glance
It’s normal to feel like you want to raise your voice during a stressful conversation.
There are lots of ways, other than yelling, to get your child’s attention.
Learning to model calm behavior will help you and your child connect.
Yelling, screaming, losing your cool, raising your voice…. Pretty much everyone ends up doing it at some point. But try to remember that your kids will learn how to have productive conversations from watching you. During stressful discussions with kids, it’s important to remain respectful — and to expect respect in return. Here’s how to make your point and teach healthy communication skills.
1. Take the opposite tone.
Shouting “Stop screaming at me!” when you’re arguing is unlikely to make anyone feel more calm. Model the kind of discussion skills you want your child to learn. Try this: The louder your child gets, the softer the tone you use to respond. This demonstrates that raising your voice isn’t the way to solve problems. And it can make you both feel calmer. If your child has trouble with social cues like voice pitch and tone, you can point out afterward how your softer approach helped.
2. Be a broken record.
Sometimes there’s no room for negotiation on an issue. In these cases, use a calm, all-business tone and quietly repeat what you expect from your child. “Sorry, but when you hit, you sit.” No matter the reaction you get, just calmly repeat the same phrase as many times as it takes. Eventually, your message will sink in. This may be especially useful with kids who have trouble remembering or paying attention to rules.
When there is room for negotiation, certain phrases can turn an argument into a healthy, back-and-forth conversation:
“What if you got 20 minutes of iPad time before homework?”
“Could we try to… ” or “Would you be willing to give this a shot for a week and then see if it’s working?”
“I wonder what you think is the best time to do your homework each day.”
Using these simple, short phrases is particularly helpful for kids who have
issues or trouble focusing.
4. Be positive — and clear.
Being clear and direct about what you want is important. So is using your child’s name when giving directions. This will get your child’s attention and make your message more personal. This can be especially helpful for kids with
issues. Instead of snapping, “The Xbox belongs to the whole family!” try saying, “Tommy, I’d like you to give your brother a turn now.”
5. Make it fun.
Defuse the intensity with some silliness. Instead of yelling for distracted (or hyperactive) toddlers to sit still so you can brush their teeth, try some gentle and fun nudging. “Quick, Nathan, I see Elmo in your mouth and I need to brush him out. Oh, and Cookie Monster, too!” Or, “You can choose a TV show every night this week if I don’t have to remind you to pick up your toys.”
6. Take a break.
If you feel like either of you is going to lose control, call a time-out and take a deep breath. Try saying something like, “Let’s both calm down. In 30 minutes, we can see if we’re ready to talk again.” Then each of you can head off to different rooms, cool off, and self-reflect. Keep in mind that “self-reflection” can be a tricky skill for a kid who learns and thinks differently. But seeing you model the behavior will help. If you’re in a public place, tell your child that the conversation is on pause until you get in the car or make it home.
7. Control the conversation.
When a discussion is about to go off the rails, it’s important to stop it in its tracks. Unlike most kids, you have the grown-up self-awareness to stop and think: “Is what I’m about to say going to help or hurt this situation? What about how I’m about to say it?” You have more self-control and better communication skills than you can expect a child to have. You have the power to disengage, redirect, or re-start the conversation in a more positive and productive way.
8. Talk to others.
Parenting a child who learns and thinks differently presents unique challenges. It can help to get connected to other parents who’ve “been there, done that” Use
our community to share your experiences and find families like yours. They may be able to offer ideas and suggestions based on their own experiences. And just having someone who understands what you’re going through can help you stay calm when an argument with your child is brewing.
There are many ways to defuse stressful conversations with kids.
Taking a time-out, changing your tone, or acting silly can help.
Remember: You’re not alone. Connect with other parents who know what you’re going through.